Foreign workers who have worked with integrity in Korea for 4 years and 10 months and then return to their home countries will be allowed to re-enter and find work again in Korea after a lapse of three months since their return. They will also be able to work in the same workplace where they used to work just before departure without having to undergo a Korean language proficiency test or employment training.
<Employment System for Foreign Workers>
- Currently, if a foreign worker goes back to his/her home country after the end of his/her employment period, he/she can be re-employed in Korea under the Employment Permit System after six months. In such cases, the foreign worker is not guaranteed a job in his/her previous workplace, let alone re-employment, and is required to go through a Korean language test, employment training and other procedures again.
The new amendment requires departing foreign workers to stay in their home countries for at least three months. This requirement is imposed in order to avoid inadvertently meeting the general naturalization requirements (staying in Korea for five consecutive years or more) under Article 5 of the Nationality Act.
To re-enter and find employment again in Korea, a foreign worker will have to have worked in a workplace of the type and size determined by the Foreign Workforce Policy Committee in accordance with the amendment for 4 years and 10 months without a change of workplace.
(The size and type of business will be determined in a way that will cover workplaces having difficulties in employing native Korean workers, such as those in agricultural, livestock and fishing industries and small manufacturers. A separate public notice will be given of such size and type.)
The government promulgated the amendment to the Act on Foreign Workers Employment, etc., containing these features, on February 1. The amendment will come into effect on July 2, 2012.
The amendment will apply to foreign workers whose employment period (4 years and 10 months) will expire after its enforcement date (i.e. Jul. 2, 2012). Any employer who wants his/her foreign worker to re-enter Korea and continue to work in his/her workplace should make an application to the competent job center before the foreign worker leaves Korea.
* The application procedure and other details will be prescribed in the subsequent amendments to the relevant Enforcement Decree and Enforcement Regulations.
The number of foreign workers who have to return to their home countries as their employment period expires is expected to reach 67,000 this year.
Businesses are complaining of losing skilled workers, and some foreign workers are overstaying in Korea illegally. Against this background, the amendment was pursued as a practical alternative.
So far, once the quota for foreign workers to be allowed into Korea is set at an adequate level each year, the Ministry of Employment and Labor has brought in new workers to fill the entire quota. However, from now on, it will fill some of the quota with foreign workers whose integrity has been verified under the new system.
The new system is intended to bring in quality foreign workers and encourage those workers to work hard during their employment period without increasing the total number of foreign workers to be introduced.
It also aims to help companies keep skilled foreign workers and to reduce the number of illegal foreigners.
Meanwhile, the amendment contains changes regarding foreign workers' change of workplace.
Up until now, even in case a foreign worker moves to another workplace due to the revocation of an employment permit issued to the employer or any violation of the required working conditions, it has been counted towards the total number of workplace transfers. However, from now on, such a transfer will not be added to the total.
* A foreign worker cannot move to another workplace more than three times during his/her three-year initial employment and more than twice during his/her two-year re-employment.
The specific criteria a foreign worker should meet if his/her transfer to another workplace is not to be included in the total number of workplace transfers will be announced by the Minister of Employment and Labor.
Lee Tae-hee, the Director General of the Manpower Policy Bureau, predicted, "This revision will contribute in part to the availability of skilled workers among firms and a fall in the number of illegal foreigners." He also said, "To ensure the smooth application of the amendment in the workplace, the government will take stronger measures to counter illegal stay and employment of foreigners, and actively provide job placement services so as for native Korean workers to be employed in companies with relatively better working conditions."